By Helmut Schoeck
Smooth Political Philosophy
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Extra info for Envy
And with the loss or submergence of moral shame and inhibitions . . the other-directed person has no defenses against his own envy. . he does not want to miss . . ’ (The Lonely Crowd, New Haven, 1950, p. ) Man’s fear of being envied for having a unique sexual experience may have led, at least in part, to the various rituals, designed to ward off envious spirits, performed prior to the consummation of marriage in many tribal societies. 2 Envy in Language BOTH IN LITERATURE and in discussions with a number of people as to what they understand by envy I have been struck by the tendency to use the word ‘jealousy’ instead of ‘envy,’ the former no doubt being more tolerable to those who confess to it than the latter, which is an ignominious sentiment.
It is true that individual articles may be found here and there in these periodicals over the course of the years in which short and very penetrating observations are made concerning envy, clearly attributing significance to the term. But to the people who made the indexes, terms such as ‘envy,’ ‘resentment’ and ‘jealousy’ were so remote that they disregarded them. Under terms as vague as ‘aggression’ a few contributions may be found in which ‘envy’ sometimes makes an appearance. In the anthropological journals it was not difficult to find phenomena which, conceptually speaking, should properly be termed envy by looking under ‘witchcraft’ or ‘sorcery’ in the index.
One may only speak of one’s own envy when the actual situation between the participants, at least the ‘official’ version of it, excludes the possibility of genuine, destructive, malicious envy. ’ There is no such verb, and the alternative construction (literally, ‘I have a resentment against you’) sounds so clumsy and pompous that no one is likely to use it. In English one frequently hears and reads the expression: ‘I resent that,’ or ‘I resent your action, your remark,’ etc. This does not indicate resentment so much as a feeling of indignation or annoyance at a piece of thoughtlessness or carelessness on someone else’s part, an unreasonable suggestion or an impugnment of our motives.
Envy by Helmut Schoeck